The wife and son of China’s former security chief Zhou Yongkang, the senior-most leader to be jailed on corruption charges in decades, have been sent to prison after being convicted of bribery and related accusations, state media reported on Thursday.
Zhou Bin, the son of Zhou Yongkang, a member of the elite Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) Politburo -- was given a 18-year prison term by a court in central Hubei province, which accused him of “taking bribes and making illegal business transactions”.
He was also fined a massive $53.5 million.
Zhou Yongkang’s wife, Jia Xiaoye, was sentenced to nine years in prison and fined 1 million yuan for accepting “bribes and taking advantage of her favourable position”.
This is the latest instance of President Xi Jinping’s three-year-old anti-corruption drive netting high-profile and well-connected suspects within CPC cliques.
Zhou Yongkang was sent to jail for life in June 2015 for taking bribes, abusing his power and deliberately disclosing state secrets, and it was widely expected his immediate family members would be prosecuted and punished.
He was considered the leader of a faction that wielded immense power within the CPC and in the oil industry during his time as standing committee member, and before that as an influential player in state-owned petrol companies.
His son’s indictment was expectedly focussed on large-scale corruption.
“Zhou Bin was fined 350.2 million Yuan ($53.5 million), while all assets he illegally obtained shall be confiscated, according to the verdict by Yichang City Intermediate People's Court,” official Xinhua news agency reported.
The verdict mentioned the role his father played in the deals.
“Zhou Bin and his father accepted property worth 98 million Yuan and sought benefits for others by taking advantage of the elder's posts. Zhou Bin used his father's influence to obtain advantages for others through other officials and accepted 124 million Yuan in property,” the verdict said.
Some say Xi has used the anti-corruption drive to weed out political opponents and their family and friends to gradually consolidate his grip over the government and the CPC.
Officially, however, the CPC says it is continuing with Xi’s high-profile anti-graft drive by “targeting both ’tigers‘ and ‘flies’” -- the terms assigned to different officials depending on their ranks and levels of corruption. The popular campaign has so far shown little sign of losing momentum.
A state media report said in March a total of 22 Chinese ex-officials at the ministerial level or above, including Zhou Yongkang, were prosecuted last year while 41 were the subject of formal investigations, up from 28 in 2014.
“All in all, 54,249 officials were investigated for their involvement in 40,834 graft cases in 2015, a slight drop from 2014, when 55,101 officials were probed in 41,487 cases,” a Xinhua report said.
“On the ’flies’ end, more than 20,500 grassroots officials from the agricultural sector as well as land acquisition, social insurance, education and medicare services were investigated and punished,” the report said.